Walks in Bristol may bring to mind a visit to Clifton Suspension Bridge or a tour of Banksy's street art, but the wider county has much more to offer. Bristol regularly crops up in lists of the UK's greenest cities, thanks to its residents' record on sustainability. But a large part of its appeal also lies in the fact that its easy to escape the city centre and get out for a walk.
The Avon gorge is a haven in its own right, and with the coast of the Bristol channel nearby, and the Mendip Hills less than an hour's drive away, finding great places to walk around Bristol is wonderfully easy.
If you're heading out for one of these walks, a comfortable, practical pair of walking boots is recommended as the ground can be uneven and muddy in places, and as always, check the weather forecast and take a waterproof jacket with you.
1.6km / 30 - 45 minutes
Leigh Woods is a National Trust woodland that provides a place to escape without feeling too far from Bristol city centre. The nature reserve offers stunning views of the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge and the city beyond, and the paths take walkers through the Avon Gorge to see the cliffs from a different perspective.
The winding routes that pass through the woods are family-friendly and suitable for walkers looking for a gentle stroll and runners looking to explore somewhere new. Leigh Woods also offers Bristol based mountain bikers a unique opportunity to weave around the protected forests on custom-built trails. The medium-sized car park and plentiful picnic benches make this the perfect place for an exciting day out with little ones; you'll have great fun spotting wildlife and spring flowers, as well as enjoying Instagram-worthy views across the Avon Gorge.
For more info on the exact route and start / end point, check out our full guide to the Leigh Woods walk near Bristol.
Stoke Park Estate
1.6 - 4.8km / 0.5 - 2 hours
Located just off the M32, Stoke Park Estate has almost 270 acres of land for hikers to freely explore. Three main circular routes around the park cater to walkers of all abilities. The Hermitage Walk is just one mile long and explores the Hermitage woodland – perfect for a Sunday stroll with family. The Stoke Park Walk is the longest circular walk here, around three miles long, and gives hikers views of the entire estate.
Stoke Park is most famous for its yellow house, perched high upon Purdown hill with its impressive retaining wall. The building is called the Dower House and can be seen from the motorway as you drive out of Bristol on the M32 heading north. It's even more striking up close, however, and has a fascinating history, having served as a hunting lodge, a stately home, a mental hospital and the base for an anti-aircraft battery during WWII.
The three main walks around the estate will immerse you in nature, and they surprisingly feel a world away from the nearby motorway. There is no designated car park here, so if you plan to visit with a young family, be mindful of street parking and busy roads.
For more info on the exact route and start / end point, check out our full guide to the Stoke Park Estate walk near Bristol.
6.4km / 1.5 - 2 hours
Cheddar Gorge, site of some of the most geographically and geologically interesting walking trails in the south west, lies just a short way outside Bristol. Walking around Cheddar Gorge offers the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of Bristol. Wildlife, including free-roaming goats and Soay sheep can be spotted.
The Gorge, situated in the Mendip Hills, is classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and its stunning scenery makes it a must-visit if you're in the area, even if you're not visiting Bristol itself. With its weathered crags and dramatic cliffs, the gorge is beautiful at any time of year, but the surrounding Somerset countryside is particularly striking in the Spring. The Mendips, as the hills around Cheddar Gorge are known, are home to a variety of unusual flora and fauna, including the rare Cheddar Pink flower, which blooms on the cliffsides from May to June.
Following the National Trust's walking route, you will see the Gorge in all its beauty and have fantastic views of the Somerset countryside. Or you can follow one of their other walks around the Mendip Hills – just remember to take care when walking across any cliff top.
For more info on the exact route and start / end point, check out our full guide to the Cheddar Gorge walk near Bristol.
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Bath Skyline Walk
9.6km / 3.5-4 hours
A lovely 10k walk that offers fantastic views over this beautiful Regency Spa town, the Bath Skyline Walk takes you through ancient woodlands, and wildflower meadows hidden in the hills above the city. While the area as a whole is not officially designated as a nature reserve, you can expect to catch glimpses of green woodpeckers, buzzards, and jays as you follow the trail, which was laid out by the National Trust and takes you through some of their properties.
The route begins on Bathwick Hill, just a short distance from Bath city centre (which is itself a short train ride away from Bristol) and follows paths through Bathampton Woods and open fields. Some parts of this path pass archaeological sites, including Iron Age field systems and old limestone mines. If you're looking for a day out from Bristol, you could do much worse than combining this walk with a tour of Bath's UNESCO World Heritage listed streets and bath houses, some of which date back to Roman times.
For more info on the exact route and start / end point, check out our full guide to the Bath Skyline walk near Bristol.
River Avon Trail
37km / 6 - 7 hours
Arguably the best-known, medium-length walk near Bristol this route runs from Pill in North Somerset to Pultney Bridge in Bath. It can also be broken down into shorter sections or circular walks, if you don't want to commit a full day to it—good transport links between Bristol and Bath mean that you can enjoy parts of this trail and travel home easily. The walk follows the river through Bristol, Hanham, and Keynsham, and takes walkers through the peaceful Avon Valley Woodland and the rolling Cotswold Hills above Bath.
Around Bristol's Harbour and New Cut Nature Reserve, wildlife watchers can spot Peregrine Falcons swooping in from the gorge. Heathland plants including gorse and heather grow further east at Troopers Hill. Moving further away from Bristol, you can see the landscape change as the limestone cliffs of the Downs give way to softer rocks that form the Bristol Valley.
A walk along this trail will immerse you in Bristol's Ice Age history, from the red sandstone that gave Redcliffe its name, to the limestone-capped Cotswold Escarpment that was mined for famous Bath stone. Following the River Avon Trail is sure to provide a stunning day out, and it's certainly one of the most interesting walks in Bristol.
For more info on the exact route and start / end point, check out our full guide to the River Avon Trail near Bristol.
The Wye Valley/Gloucestershire Way
160km / 8 - 9 days
The Wye Valley is a paradise for adventure seekers of all kinds and is just a short drive from Bristol. The Forest of Dean has a whole host of singletrack just waiting for mountain bikers to explore, while climbers can find their fun in the area’s disused quarries. It's one of the most magical places to visit in England, with its forests and old trees that inspired Tolkien, and wild rivers just perfect for kayaking.
For the seasoned hiker, we recommend the Gloucestershire Way walk. The 100 mile trail can be walked in short sections that will (eventually) take hikers from the historic town of Chepstow along the length of the county to Tewkesbury. The walk can be broken into three main sections; the first winds through the centre of the ancient woods of the Forest of Dean; the second across the Severn Vale and Gloucester; the final section of the walk takes you through the green hills of the Cotswolds.
For more info on the exact route and start / end point, check out our full guide to the Gloucestershire Way near Bristol.
Walks in Bristol don't have to be the standard tours of the city's architecture; in our opinion, some of the best walks explore the quieter nature reserves or parks. There are always places near Bristol waiting for you to discover them. All it takes is a bit of curiosity.
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